Last Sunday was a dark day for broadcasting and for those who ever had the joy of listening to Terry Wogan on the breakfast show. In the radio hall of fame Terry will be sitting at the top table.
This week we've heard and read plenty about the man himself but in this post I'll be dipping in and out of Terry's radio career, as well as adding the occasional nod as to what he was up to on the telly. No analysis, just lots of programme clips and the words of Sir Terry himself.
Kicking off on RTE
Terry's broadcasting career started at Radio Eireann in Dublin in 1961, at first part-time whilst he held his job with the Royal Bank of Ireland, and then in the permanent position as continuity announcer. Terry didn't exactly have a high opinion of Irish radio: "it was hopeless, with its mixture of classical, quasi-religious and 'diddly-eye' music," but he'd got his foot in the door.
Terry learnt his craft at RTE, "microphone technique, intonation, emphasis, phrasing and delivery". He credits Head of Presentation Denis Meehan, his deputy Brigid Kilfeather and announcer Liam Devally, all of them becoming "Irish broadcasting legends".
|24 April 1965. Terry marries model Helen Joyce - 'the |
present Mrs Wogan'
In this short sequence Terry commentates on President Kennedy's visit to Dublin in June 1963, there's the soundtrack from an edition of the TV documentary series Discovery and a clip from Hospital Requests in 1966 - his broadcasting style already in evidence, warm in tone and very laid back.
Bright, Exciting Radio 1
The sudden dropping of Jackpot by RTE prompted Terry to seek auditions with BBC TV and ITV, but he drew a blank. Instead he set his sights on the BBC Light Programme. Growing up this was, along with the American Forces Network, his station of choice. "It became my window on the world, my magic carpet to another place. It influenced my thoughts, my speech, my attitudes, my sense of humour. Everyone else of my contemporaries seemed to be listening to Irish Radio, but I struggled towards puberty with the help of Workers' Playtime, Mrs Dale's Diary, Dick Barton: Special Agent, Much Binding in the Marsh and then Take It From Here, Educating Archie, The Goons and Hancock's Half-Hour."
|The new team of Late Night Extra presenters when Radio 1|
launches in September 1967
So, in 1966, Terry posted off a tape of his radio work to Mark White at the BBC - a tape he'd failed to rewind. On the strength of what he heard Mark offered Terry a weekly slot for 11 weeks on Midday Spin, a 45-minute show with the records played in London and Terry talking down the line from RTE. The BBC then offered him a one-off Christmas show and a turn on Housewives' Choice. Sending off another tape, of Terry Awhile, to Mark White secured him a place in the new Radio 1 line-up, as one of the presenters of Late Night Extra. This meant flying across from Dublin to London every week. Later, once he'd secured more regular work with the Corporation, he was still commuting the other way to record sponsored radio shows for RTE.
|Terry sits in for Jimmy Young in 1969. The programme is billed|
as 'coming from our own studios' presumably to let listeners
know he won't be sitting in Dublin.
This is the era of Wogan's Winner, Hello Chunky, TWITS, the poisoned dwarf, the dance of the BBC virgins and directoire knickers.
With Breakfast Special coming to an end in March 1972 the morning replacements were The Early Show, with various continuity announcers presenting and Terry Wogan's new breakfast show. "The aim is to offer a reasonable musical alternative to Tony Blackburn - who's the best Top 30 DJ in the country. I'll play the kind of thing I'd like to listen to in the morning - Frank Sinatra, Brook Benton and Andy Williams." Later he would go on to define his relationship with listeners as "one of mutual recrimination. I do the talking, but I try to establish a dialogue by getting them to write in."
|Radio Times April 1972 as Terry moves|
to Breakfast, and stays for 13 years
In this sequence you'll hear Terry talking about his experience of having Eamonn Andrews loom up on him with his Big Red Book. There are also those chats with Jimmy Young, ostensibly JY coming in to plug his programme but which became a must-listen feature in themselves. Some of the recordings come from Two's Best, hence the voice of Colin Berry pops up.
|Pop Score. terry with his chum Pete Murray|
It's Ann and Terry plus Susannah Simons and Fred Housego who face some gentle probing from Richard Stilgoe in this edition from September 1981.
During the 1970s and 1980s Radio 2 was the sports network and Terry was drafted in to host coverage of the major games: the Olympics in 1976 and 1984, plus the 1992 games for Radio 5, and the 1978 and 1982 Commonwealth Games.
Hear the close of the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games with Gerald Williams and the 'demented pianist'. Then the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics from an OB truck in a parking lot. This provided a mix of sport and Hollywood glamour as Terry chats to commentators Raymond Brookes-Ward and Ian Darke and interviews Shelley Long about "this Cheers".
In December 1984 Terry bade goodbye, "the last fandango", to his breakfast show listeners - "the abdication of Terry Wogan, giving up the throne and the crown of England for the woman he loves ... Victoria Principal" according to Ray Moore. He was clearing space in his life for the thrice-weekly primetime chat show that was due to launch on BBC1 in February. This is how that show played out (with music edits). You'll perceive that his listeners were a poetic lot.
Meanwhile on the Telly
Most of Terry's TV appearances were on the Beeb but his first chat show was actually for 'the other side'. Lunchtime with Wogan, broadcast from ATV's Elstree studios, ran for 44 weekly editions in 1972 and 1973. The TV Times editorial read: "Irish disc jockey Terry Wogan chats up studio guests and audience. Between talk, resident personalities Penny Lane and Carl Wayne sing. 'The show will be casual and relaxed,' says producer/director Mike Lloyd. 'This is a young team, but the programme is intended to suit all ages. Wogan will involve the studio audience as much as possible so that it will be they who make the show. It will all be ad-lib fun.'”
No episodes were kept but a tape of ITV's Christmas 1972 All Star Comedy Carnival has survived featuring the man himself.
On BBC TV Terry's first regular gigs were as compere on Come Dancing. "At the end of it all, the public was still firmly convinced that it was introduced by Peter West, the show's original presenter. I made all the impact of a blancmange, but it was fun." There were also the various Miss UK/Miss World contests and the like usually co-presented with either Michael Aspel or David Vine.
|The first ever edition of Blankety Blank 18 January 1979|
Having presented chat shows for ATV and Radio 4, Terry got his first chance to do the same on BBC1 with a short series of Tuesday night shows in 1982. Three further longer series followed in 1983 and 1984, this time in Parky's old timeslot on Saturday night. Bill Cotton then approached Terry to sound him out for a primetime show three-nights-a-week as part of a BBC1 revamp. He took the risk and told his Radio 2 bosses that he was packing in the breakfast show.
This is a radio-themed edition of Wogan from 1987 marking Radio 1's 20th anniversary. It's packed with loads of familiar faces/voices.
Other TV work has included Auntie's Bloomers, Points of View, Do the Right Thing, Wogan's Web, The Terry and Gaby Show for Five, and Wogan's Perfect Recall for Channel 4. But, of course, the two big television juggernauts that Terry was most associated with are Eurovision and Children in Need.
Terry had done straight forward commentaries for the Eurovision Song Contest, first on the Radio in 1971 and between 1974 and 1977 and then on BBC TV in 1973 and 1978. But between 1980 and 2008 he was Eurovision, as far as UK viewers were concerned. Increasingly scoffing at the bizarre acts and partisan voting.
Last year Terry chewed the Eurovision fat with Ken Bruce in a special Tracks of My Years programme on the Radio 2 Eurovision pop-up station. (This programme has been edited).
Children in Need had been running annual appeals since the 1920s. Terry made the TV and radio appeals in 1978 and 1979 and the following year helped launch the first of the annual telethons. The first show raised £1m, the last one that Terry worked on in 2014 topped £32m on the night. "If you're going to talk about high points, then that's got to be my highest. Over the years we've raised £480 million for children's charities, and that makes me very proud indeed. So you see - I did turn out good for something in the end!"
Wogan's Back at Breakfast
This is the era of the TOGS, Janet and John, Dr Wally, Barrowlands, Boggy's shed, snorkers and Chuffer Dandridge and the white fiver.
Wogan was cancelled by BBC1 in July 1992. "My regret is I didn’t stop the talk show a year earlier. But ‘No, no’, they said, ‘we need to carry on because it’s 150 hours of broadcasting on the television and we need you to go on. In the meantime they were building a village in Spain for the show Eldorado.”
It was David Hatch, Managing Director of Radio and a family friend, that was instrumental in bringing Terry back to radio. And so it was on 4 January 1993 that Radio 2 had a morning schedule shake-up: out goes Brain Hayes after just one year and in comes Sarah Kennedy with her Dawn Patrol (though it's still billed as The Early Show) and Our Tel is back with his tail between his legs! He's got a programme title, Wake Up to Wogan and he's giving away alarm clocks (WUTWACs). Apart from being a little rusty with the studio equipment Terry pretty much picks up where he left off, he's even got his old producer Geoff Mullen looking after him.
This is how the first hour or so sounded, again with music edits.
|Cover star in August 2008|
Here's an aircheck from 13 June 2005. Terry's knighthood has just been announced. Will that engender congratulations from the TOGs? Not one bit of it. Also in the studio are Fran Godfrey and Paul Walters.
The following year selected chunks of Wake Up to Wogan are available as podcasts. "Look ma, I'm podcasting!" Speaking about the show in 2010 Terry said: "If you were listening ten years ago, and compare it to my last year, the tone and attitude would be the same, but now we take more chances. You have to move with the times. I get away with an awful lot. Nobody's ever pulled me up."
Starting this weekend I'll be posting some Wake Up to Wogan podcasts on the Random Radio Jottings YouTube channel.
Listeners that caught the end of the programme could enjoy the badinage during the handover to Ken Bruce. Here are a selection (audio courtesy of Noel Tyrrel)
|Our Tel with Alan Boyd, Alan, John, Charles & Lynn.|
No expense is spared on champagne glasses!
This is that final breakfast show:
|No, Maigret isn't making a return to the BBC|
This clip comes from the first show in 2010:
This second clip is from 17 July 2011:
Terry's final show was on 8 November last year. The following week the BBC issues a press release advising that Terry is having to pull out of presenting Children in Need. He is quoted as saying: "So, here we are on the 36th edition of Children in Need, every one of which I've been proud to present since it started in 1980, and for the first time, I won't be there, to cheer you on with word and gesture to another record-breaking year. The show will go on, bigger and better than ever, in the hands of my friends, Grimmy, Fearne, Rochelle and Tess."
Last Sunday morning the world woke to the news that Sir Terry had passed away.
Terry was always modest about his broadcasting success. He'd have been embarrassed by all the plaudits heaped on him this week, but more than a little chuffed. He put it all down to his innate laziness and a whole heap of luck.
"Life turns on an instant, and everything changes on a single throw; if I hadn't answered the ad in the Irish paper for announcers; if I'd been sensible and accepted that I didn't have the qualifications required; if I hadn't lied about a dentist's appointment, or the bank manager had refused to give me time off and I hadn't attended the audition; if RTE hadn't given me the job; if Mark White had thrown my back-to-front tape into the wastepaper basket when I applied to the BBC ... So may lucky breaks - and if only one had failed, a different life. And people think I'm being falsely modest when I put it down to luck!"
Sir Terry Wogan 1938-2016
Quotes come from Is It Me? (BBC 2000), Mustn't Grumble (Orion 2006), Radio Times issues dated 16 August 2008 and 13 February 2010.